According to Headache Australia, about 15% of the population suffers from migraines; that is 2 million Australians experiencing debilitating headaches characterised by nausea, light sensitivity and visual disturbances. Pretty scary stuff!
Migraines can occur as a result of poor sleep patterns, poor diet, neck and shoulder tension, stress, teeth grinding and vision problems. Unsurprisingly, this last trigger is what interests us as Behavioural Optometrists, mostly because we can treat it. Yes, you read that right – we can help treat, cure and even prevent migraines!
So how are migraines and the visual system related? Well the relationship, as with most in life, is a two-way street. Migraines can cause visual disturbances and lead to ocular discomfort and blur.
Researchers Doyle, Vote and Casswell (2004) actually studied a 22-year-old male who loses sight completely in his left eye for ten minutes with each migraine episode. Every 2 to 3 months, this poor guy gets a migraine, loses sight for ten minutes, returns to 6/9 sight after two hours and eventually back to 6/6 sight by the time he feels up to paying his optometrist a visit (after leaving the emergency room, of course). Luckily, his experience isn’t terribly common but other vision disturbances are. Many people that experience regular migraines report an aura involving flashing lights and blind spots in both eyes.
Now, remember I said this was a two-way street. Interestingly, poor vision skills can lead to migraines as a symptom of a much larger visual deficiency. The good news is that this visual deficiency is usually treatable.
In fact, for 48-year-old Lisette it was treatable AND curable – even better, right? Lisette came in to our Thompson Larter practice for an assessment with Behavioural Optometrist Jacqueline Gattegno a few years back. She was prescribed glasses and a course of Vision Therapy. I worked with Lisette for 16 weeks in total, but after only a few weeks the migraines started to lessen and in the end stopped completely.
You see, Lisette, like many of us in this wonderfully technological age, was spending A LOT of time on screens, over focusing and pushing her eyes to work hard at close distances for long periods of time. For a presbyopic (aging) visual system, this was putting too much pressure on Lisette’s visual setup and it started to break down as a result. Vision Therapy combined with her prescribed lenses helped to set up more stable vision skill foundations and bring about more efficient processing skills to reduce visual stress.
This is just one example of one of the many patients we have been able to help over the years.
If you or someone you know is experiencing migraines and would like to put an end to it, give us a call and let us see if we can help.